How to Travel on a Budget.. With a Baby!


How to Travel on a Budget.. Lots of families out there want to get out and see stuff.  They want to leave their troubles behind and spread their wings!  Even if that means heading just 100 miles away to go camping.    Vacation season is in full swing and American families are hitting the road with excitement. According to AAA’s annual vacation cost survey, the combined lodging and restaurant costs for vacations have jumped up 3.7% since last year, making this year’s vacation price higher than ever before. That’s why you have to put your frugal travel hat on and get creative.

Biggest Money Wasters on Travel..

  • Purchasing tickets at the last minute.  Rates are always higher when you book it late.
  • Buying too many travel supplies and accessories than needed.
  • Stopping to buy $30 worth of snacks at every truck stop.
  • Paying for parking at the airport when you could have someone drop you off.  If you have a family, consider having a friend or family member drive your family car to the airport to drop you off and then pick you up.  This one little thing could save you hundreds!
  • Over indulging in spa services – vacationing above your means.
  • Impulse purchases – lame souvenirs that are likely to end up at Goodwill.  Souvenirs are fun and help the economy of the place you’re visiting, but be conscious of how much you’re buying and make your purchases count.
  • Dining Out – If you’re traveling alone, this is definitely a cheaper way to go if you know how to order  smart.  But when you’re traveling with kids and several family members, this can be a challenge.  Dining out with 2, 3, or even 4 kids can be fun and interesting, but it can also cost you a fortune.  Talk to your kids about the family budget and let them know that you would appreciate them doing their part.  This way, when it comes to dining out at restaurants, your kids have a good understanding that they don’t need to order everything on the menu.  If you’re traveling with infants, that’s simple.  Most of the time they’re sleeping.  But with toddlers, you want to bring something with you that you know for sure they will eat.  Typically restaurants won’t care if you bring something in for the kids.  They want them happy too.  Another dining out money saver is ordering a larger meal and splitting it between two people.  You could also try to find a “buy one entree, get one free,” coupon if you know where you’re going ahead of time.  If your hotel has a business center, you could use the internet there to find the restaurants website and do a local search.
  • Credit Cards – If you’re vacationing on credit, you’re tossing money out the window.  Unless you’re using a credit card with 0% interest, your vacation is going to cost you far more than you think!  If you must use your credit card to pay for things like airline ticket, charge only the amount that you’re sure you can pay off quickly.  You don’t want to get stuck with months of high interest payments.

Now that we’ve covered “what not to spend money on,” lets talk about what TO do to save money on travel.

The average cost of food and lodging for two adults and two children is $269 per day. It’s the lodging rates that hit the hardest, going up 7.9% since last year. Meals, on the other hand, have slid down 1.3%, making eating on the road a bit less expensive, but not enough to counteract the spike in lodging.

According to AAA, the most expensive vacation spot is Honolulu, Hawaii with an average food and lodging cost of $584 per day. New York City and Miami Beach rank second and third, costing $524 and $409 per day respectively for a family of four.  However, there is hope for U.S. travelers who wish to go out west. According to the AAA survey, Albuquerque, New Mexico averages only $165 a day and Arizona costs $180 a day for the four person family making these three cities the least costly travel spots in the U.S.  If you’re just looking for some sun and warmer weather, Arizona with sight seeing, horseback riding, and a swimming pool, might be perfect for everybody.

An unpleasant truth is that food and lodging are not the only costs involved in a vacation. Hidden costs such as tolls and parking must also be considered as well. Every dollar you spend, matters. Watch what you need to spend money on, vs. what you just want.  Entertainment is yet another cost that may go under the radar as well as souvenirs, maps and travel guides, even gum!  It all adds up.

With gas prices on the rise, the fuel it will take to get to your summer hotspot will also add to the vacation expenses. It is important to plan ahead and budget for this cost by utilizing a fuel calculator – a variety of which may be found online at Mapquest and other travel calculator websites. Simply knowing how much you will spend on gas may affect your other vacation expenses.

Ever thought about traveling with an RV?  RV traveling is not the only way to save on your vacation, but is one of many tactics to keep your vacation inexpensive while still keeping the fun. Many families take trips in two or three days, staying at a hotel half-way to their destination. A great way to avoid such mid-way lodging costs all together is, if possible, to wake up early and drive through the day. Although you may not enjoy hitting the road at 5am, thinking of the money saved on lodging will help.  This is also the perfect time to come together as a family.  You can play games, listen to music, and even make some food while dad is driving.  It’s a smart way to kick of a summer vacation.

Also, bringing food and drink along for the ride cuts food costs. Once you arrive at your destination, locate a grocery store and prepare most of your food at your home away from home. Dining out for all vacation meals will incur a large cost that can easily be avoided.  Dining out is actually one of the biggest travel expenses you will have.  You can master how to enjoy your food while traveling and keeping it cheap.  You definitely don’t have to spend a lot to eat great and have fun.

Regarding the entertainment, when traveling with children, bring your own entertainment such as movies and board games. Consider lodging where entertainment is “built-in,” such as a beach (or within walking distance to a beach), mountain or lake.  Many lodges and lakeside hotels keep complimentary paddle boats and kayaks.

Finally, seek out discount rates for airlines and hotels. Many hotels and airlines offer discounted rates when large vacancies exist.  It’s best to travel in mid week and off seasons for the best deals.  And there are great deals out there!  However, keep your guard up as there may be some deals that really are too good to be true.  Beware of offers that are non-refundable or do not disclose enough information about your travel options.  It’s best to book trips and tickets online with a reputable and established company.

Here’s a little airline tip:  If you book your flight through an online company like Travelocity, and you ever need to make changes to your flight dates, don’t call Travelocity to make the change.  Avoid the change fees that can be upwards of $220.  Instead, call the airline directly and request your new travel dates.  Airlines will sometimes have change fees too, but they are much, much less.  You may end up paying $35 instead of over $200.

These budget tips will ease vacation expenses, making you more relaxed and focussed on your family.  After all, vacations can be even more fun when you know you paid less and everybody’s happy.

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